Enterprise investment in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA) is set to hit $232 billion by 2025–up from about $12.4 billion today, according to a Monday report from KPMG. However, companies face barriers including a lack of in-house tech talent and unclear goals for AI deployment, which could prevent them from realizing the benefits of these technologies, the report found.

In the next three years, 40% of the 80 industry leaders surveyed said they will increase AI investment by 20% or more, and 32% said they will increase RPA investment by 20% or more. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they plan to fully implement RPA within three years.

Organizations that ramp up automation efforts can radically improve operations and transform business models, the report noted. However, siloed and piecemealed projects that prioritize cutting legacy processing costs and headcount won’t move the needle. Instead, taking a strategic, enterprise-wide approach to automation by focusing early on creating new business and operating models can yield 5X to 10X in dividends, the report found.

SEE: IT leader’s guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

However, companies face many challenges in achieving this goal, the report found. Two-thirds of respondents said they lack in-house talent, and half struggle to define clear goals and objectives for AI deployment and accountability for results and ROI. Another one-third said management concerns over the impact on employees was the biggest obstacle. Other hurdles included lack of senior management vision, incomplete end-to-end processes, and uncertainty about the required level of financial investment.

“The surprising part of the survey is not that managers’ expectations are high for IA [intelligent automation] but rather that their organizations’ readiness to implement it is low,” Don Ryan, KPMG director of advisory and market research and survey architect, said in the report. The success of any automation project depends heavily on senior management buy in, the report noted.

The growth of automation and RPA will touch jobs, the report found: Respondents said that one-third of organizations roles will be impacted by automation in the next three years. However, no businesses said they planned to cut headcount; rather, leaders said that humans and machines would work together. This is in line with the predictions of many experts, that robots will complement human workers, and free them up to do higher-level tasks, rather than completely replace them.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Enterprise investment in AI, machine learning, and RPA is set to hit $232 billion by 2025. — KPMG, 2018
  • A strategic approach to automation that creates new business and operating models can yield 5X to 10X in dividends. — KPMG, 2018